We are proud to serve Converse County and help supply the most up to date information, data and resources for the use of our public. We have listed below each area we cover within our county. Please review each area, learn more about what concerns face our county, and also what you can do to help!
The accessibility of alcohol in America makes it one of the most commonly used substances for adults and young adults nationwide. While responsible and occasional alcohol consumption is rarely problematic, alcohol use disorder, defined as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences”, currently affects approximately 14.4 million adults and 401,000 youth in America.
Binge drinking, the consumption of “five or more alcoholic drinks for males and four or more for females on the same occasion”, occurs in approximately 26 percent of American adults on a monthly basis. 6.6 percent of people reported engaging in heavy alcohol abuse, defined as “binge drinking on five or more days in the last month.”
Many adults with alcohol-related issues began drinking as teenagers. 7.1 million underage Americans reported drinking alcohol in the past month, with 4.3 million participating in binge drinking. The effects of alcohol consumption on the developing brain is significant and may interfere with optimal development and leave abusers more prone to alcohol-related issues in adulthood. Liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, and other health problems are linked to regular alcohol use. Underage drinking also contributes to traumatic injuries, sexual assaults, and death from car accidents, alcohol poisoning, and other related causes.
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances. According to a 2016 survey, 55% Wyoming adults have had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days, which is comparable to the national median of 54% (BRFSS, 2016). Alcohol is a part of our culture, but drinking too much, either on a single occasion or over time, can have serious health consequences. Research demonstrates “low-risk” drinking levels for men are no more than four (4) drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, “low-risk” drinking levels are no more than three (3) drinks on any single day and no more than seven (7) drinks per week. To stay low risk, one must keep within both the single-day and weekly limits. Even with these limits, there can be problems if a person drinks too quickly, has health conditions, or is over age 65. Older adults should have no more than three (3) drinks on any day and no more than seven (7) drinks per week (https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm)
Youth Alcohol Use
Prevention efforts in Wyoming are reducing youth alcohol use. Before Wyoming began engaging in scientific-based prevention efforts, youth past-month alcohol use hovered around 50% and binge drinking at around 40%. In 2015, youth past-month alcohol use is down to 31% and past-month binge drinking is down to 19.7% (Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results, 2015). Wyoming received the State Incentive Grant in 2001, followed by the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) in 2005 to prevent underage drinking and prescription drug abuse in Wyoming communities. In 2012, Wyoming received the Partnerships for Success II (PFS II) to continue efforts to prevent underage drinking and prescription drug abuse in Wyoming communities. Wyoming currently has the Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success (SPF PFS) Grant, which started in 2015. With increased prevention efforts, Wyoming youth are reporting a statistical decrease in past 30 day use of alcohol from 2001 to 2015. Data from 1995 through 2015 shows a steady decline in underage drinking beginning in 2001.
Current data from the 2018 Prevention Needs Assessment survey done with Students across Converse County shows that 25.5% of students report drinking in the past 30 days.
Help is Here
Although alcohol abuse presents problems for millions of Americans, there are numerous support systems in place to help people take control of their problem and improve their lives. Alcohol Anonymous “an international fellowship of men and women who have a drinking problem” provides a supportive group setting and is prevalent nationwide. Anyone who wants to take action to address alcohol abuse is welcome to attend. The organization also supports youth with alcohol-related issues.
Locally, Solutions for Life is a non-profit organization that provides counseling and support to overcome life’s challenges. Their emphasis on respect, confidentiality, accessibility, client-focused services, and a helpful and caring staff allow them to provide professional mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, and consultation.
If you or someone you know needs help overcoming alcohol abuse, the first step is acknowledging the problem and seeking help. Though the thought of making a significant change in your life may seem daunting, you can improve your life with a strong support system if you commit to making a positive change for you and your loved ones.
Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of health risks that Americans face today. What was once recognized as socially acceptable with questionable health risks is now known to be one of the most dangerous behaviors American regularly partake in. While public perception around smoking has evolved, tobacco use continues to take the lives of nearly a half million Americans annually.
The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that smoking is harmful to nearly every organ in the body, causes disease, and worsens existing illnesses. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 19 disease categories are causally associated with smoking (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2014).
Considerable costs also arise from exposure to secondhand smoke (USDHHS, 2006), property losses from smoking-related fires (Hall, 2013), lower productivity of smokers (WYSAC, 2012), and additional cleaning and maintenance expenditures (Javitz, Zbikowski, Swan, & Jack, 2006).
Common health problems related to tobacco include cancer, heart disease, and COPD. Interventions found most effective to quit using tobacco products include nicotine replacement therapy in the form of nicotine gum or lozenges, non-nicotine prescription medications such as Chantix, and behavioral interventions to provide support to those attempting to stop using.
According to the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, in-state tobacco use “claims approximately 800 lives each year and creates nearly $240 million in annual healthcare costs directly attributed to smoking and nearly $450 million in total productivity losses. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.”
In Wyoming smokeless tobacco use is higher than the national rate. Smokeless tobacco is often perceived as less harmful than cigarette smoking because it isn’t linked to lung cancer.
Vaping and ENDS
ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) are portable, battery-powered devices that heat a liquid chemical mixture, containing ingredients similar to those found in cigarettes to an aerosol form for inhalation. These devices are known by several names such as E-cigarettes, vapes, and Juuls.
The use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, or ENDS, has increased in recent years, punctuated by a nearly three-fold increase in the use of ENDS by youth. Initially ENDS were marketed as being a way for smokers to decrease cigarette use and potentially quit. However with the production of a multitude of sweet and fruity flavors, without the associated harshness of tobacco flavor and a perception of them being less harmful than cigarettes, they rapidly became a favorite for youth across the nation. Many even believed that there was no risk of addiction.
The chemicals that are produced when vaping are known to be cancer causing agents, the same as what has been found historically in cigarettes. And ENDS may produce unique health risks of their own, including significant lung injuries that are not fully understood at this time. With ENDS being new to the market, this has not provided adequate time to perform long-term or longitudinal safety studies.
Not Quite Vapor
While widely used, the term “vaping” is not really an accurate depiction of what happens inside of an ENDS while in use. First, the delivery system heats a liquid compound. This then forms an aerosol that contains particles from both the liquid solution and parts of the device. This aerosol is then inhaled by the user – and the process repeats. According to Truth Initiative, evidence exists suggesting links between these particles and cardiovascular injury, negative effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and damage to cells that line blood vessels.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states, “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, and pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.” The CDC further recognizes the ability for e-cigarettes to benefit adult smokers as a substitute for cigarettes, but acknowledges the need for future research to ascertain whether e-cigarettes are actually effective for quitting smoking. More information is available at the organization’s Electronic Cigarettes page, click here. Additionally, the American Lung Association has in-depth resources available online, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Increased Use Among Youth
Current youth use of ENDS nearly tripled between 2013 (4.5%) and 2014 (13.4%; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015b). In Wyoming, 30% of high school students were current ENDS users in 2015 (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System [YRBSS], 2015), and, in 2017, 24% of adults had tried ENDS (WYSAC, 2018).
Concern about whether the use of ENDS will lead to combustible tobacco use is of interest to many (Barrington-Trimis et al., 2016). Thus, the Wyoming Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) is gathering data on behaviors related to and health consequences of ENDS use. This issue brief summarizes key findings from early research literature and provides preliminary data for Wyoming compared to the United States.
Quitting is Possible
If you or someone you know is interested in stopping the use of e-cigarettes, a number of support options are available!
The Wyoming Quit Tobacco Program provides a 24-hour resource at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This toll-free number provides access to a quitline that provides free counseling and may provide free smoking cessation medications for certain populations. More information can be found by calling.
While quitting e-cigarettes may seem like a daunting challenge, we want to stress that it is possible. Taking action today can only improve the lives of yourself and your loved ones. BecomeAnEX (include offsite link) provides a three-step plan to curb e-cigarette use, including tackling the physical addiction, having support from others, and using quit medications if necessary.
Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes.
Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins with exposure to prescribed medications, or receiving medications from a friend or relative who has been prescribed the medication.
The risk of addiction and how fast you become addicted varies by drug. Some drugs, such as opioid painkillers, have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.
As time passes, you may need larger doses of the drug to get high. Soon you may need the drug just to feel good. As your drug use increases, you may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill (withdrawal symptoms).
You may need help from your doctor, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program to overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free.
WYSAC reports encouraging data about prescription drug abuse. Schedule 2 prescription drug fills, defined by the Drug Enforcement Agency as those with accepted medical use but also an elevated potential for abuse and addiction (Oxycodone, Diazepam, etc.) in Converse County are considerably lower than the nationwide rate of prescriptions.
Help is Available
The Wyoming Department of Public Health is focused on helping combat the use and abuse of opioids through the avoidance of keeping medications prone to being abused in the home after they are needed through their medication donation program. Also available for people who may be at risk of opioid overdose is Naloxone (Narcan) This medication is also available and carried by first responders. It can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you are concerned about the risk of overdose for a loved one, it may be beneficial to consider obtaining Narcan.
Recovery is Possible
Recovering from substance abuse can be a long and arduous process, though the psychological temptation to use may remain long after your brain and body are no longer physically dependent on using. A supportive environment, primarily friends and family and a support program, is key to getting clean. If your drug abuse has led to more distant relationships with friends and family, reestablishing those relationships is essential to giving yourself the best chance to stop using. Many times, family members may need to work through personal issues brought on by the effect substance abuse has had on their life at the same time.
Addiction support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous are another important tool in overcoming substance abuse. The abstinence-based 12-step program hosts regular meetings worldwide and may be attended by those desiring to stop using and supportive family members.
Healing your body and mind are also important to overcome substance abuse. Exercise, mindfulness and meditation, and spiritual practice can strengthen your commitment to yourself and provide additional support towards achieving your goals.
Information For Parents and Guardians
Growing up is often marked by new experiences, peer pressure, and impulsive decision making. Identifying and addressing common issues your kids may be exposed to can help everyone thrive and make good decisions during this time.
Some common issues kids deal with are:
Alcohol (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
Nearly 34 percent of CC high school students report never having tried alcohol. Of those who had experimented with alcohol, 14.9 percent first drank at age 13, 16.2 percent at age 14, 17.75 percent at 15, and 15 percent at 16.
To address alcohol use, start the conversation about alcohol whenever it’s relevant and be open in answering your kids questions.
Use facts to explain why alcohol use can be harmful to developing brains.
Talk through different alcohol-based scenarios with your children and let them know that saying “no” is the right thing to do.
Be available to your children and maintain open lines of communication, especially when discussing difficult issues.
61.92 percent of high school students reported never having tried marijuana. Of those who have used, 69.5 percent tried marijuana for the first time between the ages of 14 and 16.
If your kids are old enough, ask them what they think about drugs in a non-judgemental way. Get them thinking about the issue.
Teenagers are most susceptible to experimenting with drugs so be sure to answer their questions honestly. Explaining why people use drugs and the negative consequences may be more impactful than just issuing an ultimatum not to try something.
Maintain a warm, open family environment to encourage healthy dialogue.
Smoking/Vaping (American Lung Association)
66.16 percent of high school students have never smoked. Among those who have used cigarettes, the largest percentage of students smoked at age 10 or younger.
43.86 percent have never tried vaping, and of those who have tried e-cigarettes, 82.6 percent started after 14.
Be direct when discussing your concern about the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
Use facts to drive home your message and impart the importance of saying “no” on them.
Ask open-ended questions to start a dialogue and give your kids credit for the good decisions they make.
Bullying (Stop Bullying)
Nationally in 2017, 32 percent of kids reported being bullied at school and 49 percent said they were picked on by a peer on at least one occasion. 19 percent felt unsafe at school some days or more frequently.
In Converse County in 2017, 28 percent of kids reported being bullied at school and 46 percent said they were picked on by a peer on at least one occasion. 16 percent felt unsafe at school some days or more frequently.
Help your kids understand what it means to be bullied and act the bully. Teach them ways to safely stick up for themselves and ask for help when they need it.
Discuss ways for your kids to stay safe and encourage them to look out for and help kids who are being bullied. Encourage them to resist peer pressure and not to bully other kids.
Suicide (Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide)
In 2018, 5 percent of Converse County high schoolers and 8 percent of middle schoolers report attempting suicide at least once in the past year. Nearly 16 percent of local high schoolers and 11 percent of middle schoolers reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
Suicide can be a difficult issue to discuss with your kids but it is important to address it. According to the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, suicide can happen to any kid in any family at any time.
Any thoughts of suicide, even in the past, should be revisited and worked through. Admit that this is a difficult subject for you to discuss and consider professional help if accessible.
Being a parent or guardian can be a challenging role for anyone. By having conversations about difficult issues early and often, your family will be in the best position to persevere through tough times.